Thursday, November 07, 2002

The Way Forward. Run, don't walk, to Liberal Oasis to get the single most comprehensive and on-the-mark set of reccomendations I've seen yet for how the Democrats can recover from these major setbacks. There are some points of agreement between my own statements and these, but the Oasis has a much more comprehensive and well-reasoned analysis than I do. I mean, I was just venting, but this stuff is practical and productive. Particularly, Liberal Oasis underscores the point about offering up alternatives to the Republican policies. To me, this means two very different things, equally important. First, Democrats have got to have better message control. They've got to have strong, forceful, charismatic people who can do the Sunday talk shows and articulate a broad alternate approach. On the nuts and bolts issues, the Democrats have to produce alternative legislation (when possible, they need to produce it before the Republican version comes out, to make the Reps play a reactive game, but this will be very difficult to do) to counter the White House legislative agenda. This alternate legislation has to serve double-duty. First, it needs to be good, well-crafted law, as if it were actually going to be passed (which it won't be, obviously). Second, it needs to highlight (in bold, with triple-underscore) key deficiencies in the Republican versions, which will vary bill to bill. Definciencies like big pay outs to big donors, spending priorities, and cutting taxes for corporations who won't spend the money, rather than on poor people who will spend because they absolutely need it.

It's important to remember that the 2002 election was not fought on the key Democratic issues, simply because the Democrats dropped the ball. This means that those issues, including corporate corruption, unemployment protection, prescription drugs, social security, health care, are still viable issues. The only way to win in 2004 is to succeed in defining the issues. The onus of that responsibility will ultimately fall on the nominee, but the legislative minority can and must start the process now. We know that there are key differences between the parties. In fact, there are enormous differences. Many voters don't know that. They must be told, again and again. They must be shown, again and again.

This process can't hope to succeed, or even to begin, until the Democrats have a dynamic national leadership. That must be the top priority. So let's go.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Post-Mortem. Ugh. Ok, so, we've had the election, and, if you're like me, you feel like a college freshmen walking home, a little awkwardly, carrying a volatile mix of shame, anger, self-recrimination, and pure hatred, from her first frat party. The best wrap-up I've seen so far (and it's early yet) has come from the inimitable Joe Conason. He's right. Democrats have no one but themselves to blame. Sure, the Republicans threw in a lot of horrendously obscene dirty tricks, as I mentioned before, but this is nothing new, and it isn't going to change. And moreover, it doesn't explain what happened. Even without the dirty tricks, the Republicans would still have had a great night. Why?

There's going to be a lot of debate within the Democratic Party over that question. My own feeling, echoed by Conason today in Salon, and also by Paul Begala and James Carville last night on CNN's election coverage, is that the Democrats abdicated their position as an opposition party. They rolled over on the Bush tax cut, and even now, when its massive folly is clear to all honest onlookers, refuse to take a principled stand against it. They rolled over on Iraq. They did little else but roll over. And now that their accomodationism has resulted in a Republican sweep of government (they control the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the federal judiciary, with more ultra-conservative judges on the way before you can say "civil liberties"), they will lose what few principled battles they were willing to fight. Stay tuned for a Department of Homeland Security stripped of all civil service protections, which will allow this most important federal endeavor to be co-opted by political cronyism and nepotism. Stay tuned for a mad rush of conservative Appeals Court justices, as I've said. Stay tuned for a conservative Supreme Court Justice to retire before the 2004 election. Stay tuned for an anemic prescription drugs plan. Stay tuned for special interest pandering the likes of which this country has never seen. Stay tuned for more and more subtle attacks on a woman's right to choose, stay tuned for more expansion of gun rights beyond all reasonable limits, stay tuned for environmental policies designed to protect, rather than combat, industrial polluters. This is the bed we've made. And we've got to sleep in it if it kills us.

As of this moment, the presidential election in 2004 is already lost. The only thing that can change this is if the Democratic Party gets its shit together and starts fighting back against the reactionary policies of the hard-core conservative wing of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party needs new leadership, in the Senate, in the House, in the Democratic National Committee, and in its nominee for 2004. That doesn't necessarily mean new people. If Daschle, Gephardt, McAuliffe, and Gore can grow a collective backbone overnight and somehow find their missing testicles, so much the better. I still believe in Gore, for instance, but he has to prove that he's tough enough to fight. They all do. They don't have to start fighting dirty, but they do have to start fighting hard.

There may be some unintended beneficial results from this debacle. The Republicans now officially have no one to blame. The Democrats lost, in part, because they presented no real alternative to the White House. Now, the Democrats simply can't present an alternative. They can draft alternate legislation which will never get passed, and they should, on every last issue. But they now have practically zero influence on the policies of the federal government. This is bad, but it also puts a lot of pressure on the Republicans. Two years after Bush was nearly (but not quite) elected, we still have no prescription drug benefit. Republicans were able to blame this on the "Senate", their favorite "non-partisan" code-word for Democrats. No longer. If the economy is still in poor shape in fall 2004, Republicans will have no one to blame. If senior citizens aren't benefitting from their prescription drugs benefit, the Republicans will be blamed. For everything that goes wrong, Republicans will be blamed, because who else is there? Judging from the impressive record of the first two years of His Fraudulency's term, a lot is going to go wrong.

But, if the Democrats are going to capitalize on the country taking a bee-line for the shitter, they've got to get tough, and they've got to do it now. The Democratic faithful have been saying this for years, and the top guys just haven't responded. Am I confident that they'll finally get their shit together? No, by no means. But they might, and its the only chance we've got.

Lastly, I'd just like to close with one desperate, hopeless, useless, but cathartic "Fuck You!" to the leadership of my party, which betrayed me, and the principles they claimed to have stood for. Don't worry, the Democrats certainly won't lose my vote, because despite all of their political flaws they are still right, policy-wise, on issue after issue after issue. But without strong, dynamic leadership, being right just isn't good enough.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

The Bond Project: On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Since I first saw this neglected and underappreciated film, I have been one of its most ardent admirers. This film almost completely dispenses with the standard Bond formula. It was a good time to do it. This is the sixth film in the venerable franchise, and the first one which does not feature Sean Connery in the lead role. Of course, modern audiences expect to be asked to adjust to a new lead actor every couple of films, but at the time, this was quite a daring step. As much as Sean Connery is still widely considered to be "the" James Bond, at the time, he was also the only one most viewers had ever seen. Then, as now, the films were far more widely seen than the books were read, so most people had never known of Bond without Connery. All of that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on poor, unknown, George Lazenby.

First, George wasn't much of an actor at that point. He was a model, and he had done some commercials. Second, he wasn't Scottish (like Connery and Bond are), and he wasn't even British. He was Australian! Now, he was asked to fill the shoes of a much loved actor in a much loved role.

The production team made an interesting decision. They bent over backwards to tie OHMSS into the Bond family by including lots of subtle and not-so-subtle references to the previous films. The title sequences included images taken from each previous film. The scene where Bond is preparing to leave MI6 includes lovingly nostalgic memorabilia from the previous films, and there's even the odd musical cue throw back (the janitor whistling the theme from Goldfinger). And yet, the script itself represents a massive departure from what is normally expected. Despite the title, Bond is not working for Her Maesty's Secret Service at any point in this film. [The irony would be repeated for "License to Kill", which was originally going to be called, more appropriately, "License Revoked", but for the fact that, according to film legend, Americans didn't know what "revoked" means.] Bond is on leave, and he's using his hard-earned vacation time to track down the villainous Blofeld, who, for reasons known only to himself, is trying to be recognized as the decendent of some Count. One would have thought that world domination would be ambition enough, but megalomanical madmen are nothing if not megalomaniacal.

Meanwhile, Bond meets and falls in love with (no, really!) the beautiful Tracy, as played by Diana Rigg, who remains to this day my all time favorite Bond girls. Of course, he slaps her around a bit, sleeps with a couple other women, and all in all doesn't treat her very well, but she loves him too. Already, you can see that this is a bit of change for dear old James. Indeed, not only is Blofeld himself kept out of the picture for quite a while, but we don't even get a gander at what he's up to until the final act. You see, Bond is trying to stop devilish plot to provoke a war or anything like that. He is simply trying to find Blofeld. He does so, of course, and finds him in the midst of a devilish plot, and so must of course put a stop to it. He is aided by an army of criminal underlings, which is both poetic justice for the dastardly Ernst, and nice change of pace from being aided by an army of heroic underlings.

Speaking of pace, I noticed on my most recent viewing of the film that the tempo of this movie is all over the place. The build-up is long, slow, and utterly irrelevant to what eventually becomes the plot. It involves Bond ostensibly trying to track down Blofeld, but really concerns his courtship of Tracy. Once Blofeld is discovered, Bond sets out on an amusing cover operation as a representative of the British Government attempting to ascertain to truth of Blofeld's claim of ancestry. Of course, despite the fact that they met face to face under a volcano in Japan, neither Blofeld nor Bond recognizes the other. Here we get an amusingly low tension sequence of Bond, newly in love but not yet engaged, cavorting with a host of attractive ladies, including Joanna "Patsy" Lumley. [Patsy was also a Bond girl, she once told Edina, in "Bond Meets Emanuelle". Sadly, that film will not be a part of The Bond Project.] This delightful sequence, which employs the voice of George Baker rather than George Lazenby, is brought to an abrupt end, and we are treated to a delightful (but terribly long) chase sequence, where Tracy improbably arrives to save the day. Of course, she's soon kidnapped, which brings us the the denoument: a full on assault on Blofeld's headquarters, followed by another long chase sequence.

This film has a lot of ground to cover, to be sure, which is why it clocks in as the longest Bond film at something like 2 hours and 20 minutes. But it seems to me that it's actually two utterly different films with a little token overlap. This is why the film is such a marked departure from the Bond formula. No other Bond picture has had to grapple with a mostly separate human story in addition to the standard spy story. The Bond-Tracy film is, all by itself, delightful, and well worth watching. The actual Bond story is enjoyable enough, if slight. But the pacing problems are a real flaw. It's a difficult film to get a grip on, as it keeps changing from one story to the other in the most abrupt and graceless of ways.

These shortcomings are redeemed by the final scene, which George Lazenby performs to perfection. The death of Tracy, while an utterly improbably and highly contrived development, are handled with a tenderness and depth I never would have believed possible. As much as I enjoy Connery's better Bond performances, I wonder if he would have been able to rise to the challenge of this scene as well as poor, overlooked, underappreciated George Lazenby did.

I still consider this film to be highly underrated, but I don't put myself so firmly into the pro-OHMSS camp. It's fans tend to be a little overenthusiastic in singing its praises, and rarely seem to acknowledge its evident flaws. On the other hand, packaged in between the lackluster You Only Live Twice and the utterly dire Diamonds are Forever, this film does tend to look pretty good in comparison.

The bottom line: one of the better Bond films, but it couldn't quite deliver on its promise.

UPDATE: Ed's reveiw of this film is available here. The Bond Project continues with Diamonds are Forever.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Ratfucking Alert. Courtesy of Talking Points Memo, check out this flyer which was distributed in black neighborhoods in Maryland. There's no two ways about it: this is a despicable dirty trick designed to cheat blacks out of their right to vote. This tactic is disgusting, obscene, and all too common. The right to vote is the most precious right anyone has in a democracy, and it sickens me to sit back and watch thousands of people have that right stolen from them, right out in the open, while our compliant media shrugs it off as "politics as usual". Listen, I know politics is a tough and dirty game. Like hockey, it's one of the things I love about it. But there's a line, a pretty bright line, between "tough politics" and "crime". This flyer crosses it.

If that doesn't piss you off, then check out this article, which recently ran in Salon.com, explaining how Jeb is going to win in Florida. The Republican Party is at war with black America, and they're doing their utmost to make damn sure that blacks cannot, or at least do not, vote. It was like that in 2000. It will be like that tomorrow. It will be like that in 2004. It was like that back in the good old days of the 60s when a young man named William Rehnquist actively (and illegally) barred blacks from voting in Arizona. Yes, you may recognize the name. He later joined Nixon's Justice Department as a lawyer, and was nominated by Nixon for the Supreme Court. He lied to the Senate about his opposition to the landmark civil rights ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, and he lied about his illegal activitites in Arizona. He was later appointed to be Chief Justice by Reagan, which gave him an opportunity to tell these same lies again.

The point is that Republicans don't want blacks to vote. But you can't blame them for that. What we can blame them for is actively, and illegally, preventing them from exercising this precious Constitutional right. But as long as they get away with it, they'll keep doing it. Especially when they are running in elections so tight that a few thousand illegally disenfranchised blacks make all the difference.
Election Special. Well, we're almost there. Tomorrow, the rubber hits the road. I'm sure many of you out there are concerned about which way the elections are going to go, and you want to know what you can do to help your preferred candidate win that tough race. Well, I'm here to tell you how you can help. Obviously, voting is a pretty good place to start. But then, any old fool could have told you that, and here at Terminus, I pride myself on seeing a liitle deeper than most, and getting right at the core issue that most commentators just sort of pass over. So, we don't stop at just voting. No sir.

Also, despite the fact that Terminus is an unapologetically liberal blog, I do try to throw in a little bipartisanship from time to time. Basically, politics is like any major professional sport. Sure, I have my favorite team, but I also love the game. In that spirit, I'm going to give targetted advice to both Democrats and Republicans (aka, progressives and reactionaries) on how to get your guy elected.

For Democrats: All the pundits agree that the key to this race is "Get Out the Vote", or GOTV, as we highly jacked-up political insiders like to say. Why is GOTV so important? Because it reveals the shortcomings of polls. All of these polls you've seen for races all over the place showing a close election, with the Republicans being slightly favored... these races are all winnable if turnout for the Dems is higher than expected. You see, factored into polls are loads and loads of invisible, historical assumptions about how many blacks will vote, how many women will vote, and how many gun-toting, gap-toothed, straw-chewing white guys named Cletus will vote. The Democrats will never win the Cletus vote (and if the Cletuses come out in force, we're dead), but they have strong leads over the Republicans in the other groups mentioned, and in many more besides. So, if any of these groups turnout in larger proportions than the pollsters anticipated, it shifts everything in the Democrats favor. That's pretty much the only way the Democrats can win the House: if there's a national wave of increased turnout which results in just a few upsets here and there, enough to shift a mere six seats. It could happen. So, if you're a Democrat, vote, and get all your Democrat friends to vote.

For Republicans: Well, think about it: if high turnout helps the Democrats, than obviously, low turnout helps the Republicans. I mean, like, duh. So, if you're a Republican, it's vitally important that you don't buy into the Democrats' evil lies. Those Democrats want to litter the streets with dead babies (and to take Cletus's guns away, dag-nabbit!), and the only way to stop them is to keep turnout low. So, don't vote. Not only that, make damn sure that all of your Republican friends also stay home. If you do that, then trust me, Democrats are screwed.

This has been a friendly, bipartisan message from your friendly, bipartisan blog, Terminus.